Licensing criteria for centre-based ECE services

Section 10 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link) defines an early childhood education and care centre as a premises that is used regularly for the education or care of 3 or more children (not being children of the persons providing the education or care or children enrolled at a school who are being provided with education or care before or after school) under the age of 6 years by day (or part of a day) but not for any continuous period of more than 7 days.

Centre-based ECE services have a variety of different operating structures, philosophies and affiliations, and are known by many different names – for example, Playcentres, early learning centres, Montessori, childcare centres, Kindergartens, crèches, preschools, a’oga amata, Rudolf Steiner etc.

These centres are licensed in accordance with the Education and Training Act 2020 under the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008(external link), which prescribe minimum standards that each licensed service must meet. Licensing criteria are used to assess how the centres meet the minimum standards required by the regulations.

For each criterion there is guidance to help centres meet the required standards.

The publication of the criteria on its own can be downloaded as a PDF [PDF, 1.8 MB] and printed. 

The licensing criteria were last updated in September 2022. 


PF20 Toilet/hand washing facilities

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Premises and facilities criterion 20

      § Toilet and associated hand washing/drying facilities intended for use by children are:

      • designed and located to allow children capable of independent toileting to access them safely without adult help; and
      • adequately separated from areas of the service used for play or food preparation to prevent the spread of infection.

      The criterion aims to uphold hygienic practices by ensuring that the design/location of toilet/hand washing facilities encourages their use by children.

      The criterion is underpinned by the belief that independence in children is valued.

  • Guidance
    • Guidance

      Any examples in the guidance are provided as a starting point to show how services can meet (or exceed) the requirement. Services may choose to use other approaches better suited to their needs as long as they comply with the criteria.

      Ideally, toilet and hand washing facilities should be close to play areas (that is, not down long corridors) to make access for children as easy as possible.

      If there is a door to the area where the toilets and hand washing facilities are, this must be able to be independently opened by children.

      Adequate supervision is important. Depending on the layout of the centre, a high viewing window into the bathroom area may ensure privacy for children but allows for discreet supervision.

      Refer to the guidance for PF21 – Hand Drying Facilities.

  • Things to consider
    • Things to consider


      • Using child-sized toilets prevents the need for a step. This may make them safer to use (minimises hazards) and encourages children to toilet because it is much easier for them.
      • It is a good idea to locate the nappy changing area close to a toilet, so that children who are beginning to toilet train can easily use the toilets when they get their nappies changed.

      Hand washing

      • Use hand basins or a trough. If the height of hand basins or a trough is between 550 and 600mm from the floor for older children, and 450 to 500mm from the floor for young children, they are likely to be easily reached. (If children need to use steps, the bathroom area will have unnecessary clutter and hazards.) Consider the age range of children who will attend.
      • Consider in particular the style of the tap, as children bend over the hand basins often to wash hands.
      • Use taps that turn themselves off, with a very easy lever for children to operate. Taps of this type prevent water from being left on and are available from most plumbing outlets.
      • When using taps that ‘turn’, it is a good idea to ask the plumber to limit the amount of ‘turn’ to 180 degrees. This will ensure that children don’t keep turning a tap the wrong way in an effort to turn it off – eventually giving up.
      • Providing liquid soap is recommended because it reduces the spread of infection. It should be easily accessible for each child using hand washing facilities.

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